Monday Morning Review: Facebook Contests

I read a great article over the weekend on running Facebook contests. It’s not as easy as one would think…

Not that setting up the contest is difficult, it is all of the numerous rules and regulations that must be followed in order to legally run a contest on Facebook. Facebook has left no stone unturned when it comes to protecting their liability with other company’s and individual’s contests. Because of this, their policies on running a contest for your business on Facebook can get pretty confusing.

Ideally, you cannot use Facebook to run the contest. You must use a third party application which can be used on Facebook. Any submissions — pictures, e-mail addresses, whatever you are collecting for the contest — must be collected via the third party application rather than through Facebook directly. I assume this is to take Facebook out of the liability loop. If the submissions are not submitted to Facebook, they can’t be held liable. It was submitted to some other site (Wildfire, iFrame, whatever app), and therefore the liability lies with the third party app for any missed or miscalculated contest results.

In the scheme of business, it is a wise move for Facebook to protect itself from any liability at all costs. At the same time, however, they shouldn’t make following policy a treasure hunt. The article stated that most contests run on Facebook are illegal and at risk of having Facebook shutdown the contest, page, account, or the whole kit-and-kaboodle. As authors, we must self promote whether we self publish or publish our works traditionally. We really need to get these policies down to a science to ensure that our Facebook promotion efforts are not foiled because of Facebook’s convoluted policies.

For a more indepth discussion of Facebook contest policies, read Social Media Magazine‘s article in their April/May 2012 edition of Fb+Business Magazine. Author Marketing Experts put out four magazines targeted at assisting authors — Fb & Business, LI & Business, Tweeting & Business, and The Big G & Business. They each contain some great information and articles to help the author build their business using social media.

Time to share…
What are your thoughts on using Facebook contests as a way to build business? Are FB contests an effective method for authors? What do you think about FB’s policies on contest — too restrictive or easy enough to follow?

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Using Excel to Create an Editorial Calendar

So you’ve noticed I’m really on a kick with this editorial calendar thingy, huh? Two posts about it two days in a row…

I see an EC as an immense tool for bloggers. Although I have just instituted this tool in my writing life yesterday, it has already done innumerable things to assist me:

  • Organized my weeks into cohesive “themes”
  • Ensured that I am not overloading my readers with the same drudgery day after day after day
  • Gives me a clear overview of my weeks and months
  • Has “forced” me to plan ahead — I had to fill out the calendar once created, right?
  • Removed the forced scrambling to 1) come up with something to post, and 2) writing it on the fly once I thought of something so that I can get it posted that same day ;-p
  • The list goes on and on…

I used Microsoft Excel to create my EC. It was the easiest piece of software I could easily use to layout the calendar. Others have used Microsoft Word and the table function in Word. I decided not to deal with adjusting rows and columns in Word when Excel was made to easily do just that. Here’s a screenshot of the beginnings of my calendar, with the layout of it being based on Michele Linn’s screenshot from her article entitled How to Put Together an Editorial Calendar for Content Marketing, which I shared with you in yesterday’s post:

EC Screenshot

My Editorial Calendar Screenshot

My goal is to post an article 5 days a week — Monday through Friday. On the first Saturday of each month, I will share a short story writing sample. This sample writing project will be a “first draft”, so don’t look for perfect grammar and sentence structure and the other trappings of finalized prose. It’s a fun exercise for self to keep me writing and for my readers to keep them motivated and writing as well.

Each day of the week has a specific theme. For example, each Monday I will write about the articles and information which I’ve devoured over the weekend as it relates to writing. I read up on the writing industry constantly and I would like to share some of the information I garner through my reading. Fridays are my “break” day where I get to write about whatever is churning up in that brain of mine. It’s the day I let the Muse free to do as she pleases. I may post a poem, or you may get an article about my Shorkie, Ebonie (a Shorkie is a Shitzu/Yorkie “designer” breed dog — a mutt with a price tag LOL! but I love her so…she’s my writing buddy…). You never know…

I hope that yesterday’s article at least got you thinking about ECs and how they can be useful to you in your writer’s life. If not, then today’s should really get you going — especially if you’ve been struggling to be a faithful blogger who publishes great content and not just throwing something up to say that you post daily. This tool in one day has already had a major, positive impact on my schedule and my time management. You could enjoy the same benefits too by instituting your EC today!

If you are interested in instituting an EC but are not the techie type, shoot me an e-mail and I’ll send you a blank copy of my Excel spreadsheet for your use. You will need Microsoft Excel in order to open/edit it for your use. Google Docs may also be used as well.

Time to share…
Let’s see a screenshot of your EC! What software did you use to create it? Any tips on easy ways to create one? You are creating a daily calendar for a full year afterall… 

Monday Again…

Wow… Weekends sure do go by quickly! And with all of the responsibilities of living — mother, wife, author, entrepreneur, etc. — it makes the time seem even quicker. Forty-eight hours is just not enough time to get it all done!

I have been reading a lot about social networking lately. More specifically as it relates to blogs. See…I really want my blog to be a useful tool in the blogosphere and not just another blog to add to the millions out there. I want it to have a plan and direction; for it to be targeted and specific to the niche I have chosen. Not that my chosen focus is a “niche” per se since writing is very broad; however, I would like my blog to be focused and not all over the map, jumping from this to that to this and back to that again…

One of the topics I have been reading up on this weekend involves creating an editorial calendar for your blog. This will help you to keep your focus and keep your blog going in the direction you intend, rather than having it all over the place. Most of the articles suggested using Excel or any spreadsheet program to create and keep your EC. Microsoft Word or a wordprocessing program was also suggested. I am going to start with Excel, but in the long run I’m sure it will end up in the Calendar app on my iPad somehow. I just need to start in Excel so I can transfer it to my electronic method once refined.

I found these two articles very helpful in explaining exactly what an editorial calendar is and how instituting one in your blogging life can assist you greatly and steer your blog into a more professional direction:

Develop An Editorial Calendar for Your Blog
How to Put Together an Editorial Calendar for Content Marketing

Both authors have similar views. They suggest that using an EC will greatly improve your blogging and help you to stress less about your blog. The authors agree that having some type of EC in place allows you to get your blogging done in an orderly, non-rushed fashion, where you know well ahead of time what needs to be written for your blog on each day that you will be blogging. I believe that instituting an EC will allow me to get my posts written and scheduled in advance so I’m no longer scrambling the day of to get the darn article written and posted. Because of some of the suggestions in these two articles, I have chosen my method of scheduling and will be creating my spreadsheet today. Anyone who blogs regularly and professionally should really consider getting your mind wrapped around a “publishing” schedule and getting your EC in place today…

Time to share…
Do you use an editorial calendar in your blogging life? If so, please share the tool(s) you use to create and maintain it. Also share how instituting one has resolved issues for your blog and kept you focused. 

Social Media: A Major Distraction? A Useful Tool? Or A Bit of Both?

What’s your take on social media as it applies to being an author?

Is it a distraction for you? Is it a useful and much needed tool? Or, do you believe it is a bit of both? Me, it is a bit of both… Coming from working in the information technology field and being a self-proclaimed “geek”, social media can be an enormous distraction. And for the same reasons, it can be a great tool.

I am able to network with like-minded individuals through social media. Online writers’ groups, forums, resource pages and the like are all invaluable when writing. On the flip side of that coin, I can also go on the forums to research a topic, get feedback and opinions, or get the latest buzz about something and get totally sucked in tweeting, chatting, and surfing the forums to see what my colleagues are up to…

Social media is needed by authors in order to get their message out and to assist them in building their platform. You have taken the time to write and perfect the next blockbuster novel or other written work. What better way to spread the word then the world wide web? It is one proven method of getting your message out to the world. Of course, there are many other marketing methods, tools, and avenues you will take; however, there is no better electronic medium than the Internet, and no better vehicle than social media.

Your website is up and ready to receive visitors. You have been the most faithful blogger. You have worked hard while you were writing to build your following using Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn/every-social-site and have a nice number of followers. Your website and blog statistics are up. You would be remiss not to mention on every social site you’ve used to create buzz for yourself that your much anticipated and talked about work has finally been released — both traditionally and in electronic format.

All-in-all social media is a necessary evil. An evil because writers need nothing else to use in a procrastination or writer’s block cycle — we are already doing whatever we can to avoid writing. Just a simple fact in a writer’s life… A necessity because used properly it can be a vehicle to assist in self and book promotion, as well as a resource for pertinent information during the writing process.

Time to share…
How do you feel about social media? A tool? A distraction? Both? Let’s discuss how we can ensure it’s used as a tool and not a
distraction.